Of the many symbolic acts and institutions which democracy tends to create, the one that garners the most attention and admiration today is that act of voting which represents the empowerment of a people over those who will govern and execute laws upon them. Elections are an essential component of any democracy. But the question that we must ask, particularly now when elections feature so prominently in the democracy discourse, is whether the mere phenomenon of elections means that democracy is alive and well, or are there still fundamental issues to be resolved?
Elections of course must be free, fair and transparent. But beyond that there must be a “level playing field” – which includes equal access to a free media, open debates and a conduct of elections that can stand up to international scrutiny. When the results of elections are called into question an independent judiciary free from political influence must be able to arbitrate and rule on the matter without bias. Speaking of an independent judiciary, we can’t overemphasise the tragedy that has befallen many an Asian country wherein judges have fallen prey to the machinations of dictators and autocrats alike regardless whether they purport to act as army generals or civilians!
However, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that efforts to ensure Malaysia's security demand "a sense of accountability to the whole, rather than the few."
"If the choice is between public safety and public freedoms, I do not hesitate to say here that public safety will always win," Abdullah said in a speech to corporate leaders.
"I will not sacrifice my sense of accountability to the greater public, especially in the face of police intelligence about planned fighting or other violent intent," Abdullah said. "We must never ever take our peace for granted."